Courageous Leadership

A recent article in Forbes magazine used a newer term we’ve been hearing a lot about called ‘courageous leadership’. It seems to run alongside another term we’ve heard recently called ‘radical candor’. Both terms conjure up an image of someone who is bold, who shows little fear for saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done.

A school of fish that are different shades of blue and one red fish leading them.

Out with the Old:
What we are seeing is an overall organizational, cultural shift that moves away from the traditional business model where performance and change management systems are very structured, linear and requires employees to simply ‘tow the line’. These traditional systems include a significant role for highly professional communication with clear parameters and carefully worded language.

Historically business was managed for the most part by fear-based rules. Fear equaled respect. That fear could include being yelled at by your boss, being isolated from your co-workers, being overlooked for promotion or being terminated. And for much of the time, fear was embedded using policy and procedures that laid out ‘the way things will be’ or otherwise ‘face the consequences’ type of attitude and culture. We know that these fears still exist today. However, in the past it was common for individuals to work at the same work place their entire career, which meant that the threat of a toxic work environment or termination had a lot of weight. No one wanted to go to work under those conditions and certainly not for 20-50 years!

In with the New:
The new generation of leadership calls for clear communication and action as processes need to move in multiple directions simultaneously. Our new generation of leaders don’t assume job security and as a direct result are not as vested in any particular employer. Today new leaders plan to switch jobs every few years. This means that employers can’t install as much fear as in generations of the past. They want to work for an organization whose culture emanates inclusiveness, individual contribution, innovation and creativity and an opportunity to continuously challenge the status quo and have their ideas be heard.

One positive outcome from this, is a new generation of courageous leaders. These are not yes men or women. They are people that stand up for who they are and what they stand for. What do these courageous leaders do?
1. Confront reality head-on
2. Seek feedback and listen
3. Say what needs to be said
4. Encourage push-back
5. Take action on performance issues
6. Communicate openly and frequently
7. Lead change
8. Make decisions and move forward
9. Give credit to others
10.Hold people (and themselves) accountable

This new generation of leaders will not tolerate anything that is counter productive to their goals. And guess what? As technological and economic shifts continue to require organizations to move at an extremely rapid pace, these courageous leaders are in demand and will be snatched up by leading edge organizations that want to succeed in the new world.